HC Deb 06 July 1959 vol 608 cc885-8
45 Mr. Wigg

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what mechanical characteristics and aerodynamic features of the Short Britannic 3 are similar to the Lockheed C130 family of aircraft; and whether he will make a statement;

(2) what features of the Short Britannic 3 are derived from the Britannia, apart from the similarity of name; on what date it is now expected that this aircraft will enter service; and whether he will make a statement;

(3) if he will state the number of Messrs. Short and Harland's workers who were retained in employment between the date the order for the Britannic 3 was authorised by the Minister of Defence and 30th June, 1959, who, otherwise, would have been dismissed, and the number of additional workers who will be taken into employment before 31st December, 1959, in consequence of that decision.

48. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Supply how many Britannic aircraft have now been ordered by his Department.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

While the Britannic design envisages a number of completely new components, such as a large capacity fuselage, it is fundamentally based on the Britannia design and includes many components either identical with or derived from those of the Britannia.

The Britannic superficially resembles the American C.130 family of aircraft in that it is a turbo-prop freighter aircraft with a long range and a high wing. In no way can it be said to be derived from the American designs.

Since the specification for the Britannic has not yet been made final, no contract has yet been placed with the Company. I am informed, however, that about 200 technicians are now employed on the project and that by the end of the year this figure will have risen to about 500. Next year, as the programme gets under way, the additional employment will be substantial.

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Minister of Defence informed the House that he was placing an order for a long-range freighter aircraft on the lines of the Britannia? The Minister expected the aircraft to fly in April, 1961, and be in production by 1962. Is it not now clear that this aircraft is an entirely new one, that it will not fly in 1961, and that it will be very lucky if it gets into the air at all by 1962, and it certainly will not be in production before 1964 and probably 1965? By the time it is available to the Armed Forces it will be completely out of date and there will be no civil market, which was one of the essential conditions that the Minister of Defence informed the House he took into account in placing the order.

Mr. Jones

I do not recall the exact terms of the statement made by the Minister of Defence. However, it is nonetheless a fact, and the hon. Gentleman must accept it, that this aircraft is based to a large extent on the Britannia. It is true that the new specification is not identical with the original one, but nevertheless I hope, and I think it is a well-founded hope, that this aircraft will find a civil export market if only for the reason that its capacity and fuselage are greater than in its competitors.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. Three Questions of mine are being answered together. If I am allowed only one supplementary I cannot raise the points I want to. I ask for your protection, Mr. Speaker, on one very important point, that is, about timing. The Minister made a statement that the prototype would fly in 1961 and that it would be in production at the end of 1961 or 1962. We now know that that timetable is out of date.

Mr. Jones

As I said, I do not recall the exact terms of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, but if the hon. Member will put down a further Question I shall endeavour to give him an answer.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. I have on the Order Paper three Questions, one of which referred to the time-table. If the Minister does not know the answer which the Minister of Defence gave, he ought to know the answer which he himself gave to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) only last week, which differed substantially from those made by the Minister of Defence and the company itself.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order. That is a point of dispute between the hon. Member and the Minister. The hon. Member is asking about something which the Minister of Defence said, but there is not a word about that in his Question.

Mr. Wigg

With respect, Mr. Speaker, the Minister has given answers to my three Questions and I make no complaint about that. But in Question No. 46 I specifically asked him about the timetable, and only last week the Minister gave an answer on the subject to the hon. Member for Macclesfield.

Mr. Beswick

Is the Minister aware that many people are beginning to think that the announcement of orders for this aircraft were nothing more than a propaganda exercise? Are we now to take it that when the order was given we had no idea what the specification was or when the aircraft would be ready for delivery?

Mr. Jones

No, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is to understand no such thing. When the Government came to their decision to choose this aircraft there were other designs, but none of those designs was made to a specification put up by the Air Ministry. It is only natural that the Air Ministry should wish to add certain things to designs originally submitted by manufacturers in the first place. As to dates, as I told my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield last week, I expect the prototype to be flying in 1962 and the aircraft fully to enter service in 1964.

Mr. Wigg

On a point of order. In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment. Is it too much to hope that the Minister of Defence will reply?